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Ah, Thanksgiving! That wonderful holiday when we make our favorite dishes, stuff ourselves to the brim, and watch football all afternoon. Just thinking about it has my stomach growling right now! But the centerpiece of this holiday traditionally is…the turkey!
Few turkeys taste so amazing as one that is deep fried, but pulling this cooking masterpiece off can cause more drama and stress than it really needs to. You always hear stories about turkey fryers that blew up, caught fire, and someone was injured. It doesn’t have to be that way, and if you follow these very simple steps, you’ll walk away with your bird, and your house, intact!
How To Deep-Fry A Turkey
(Without Burning the House Down)
The Principle of Displacement
Believe it or not, some physics is actually required to deep fry a turkey. I know, right? Never thought you’d ever use it again when you left school, but if you don’t want to burn the house down this is actually the most important thing you’ll read today.
Displacement is defined as “the occupation of a submerged body or part of a body of a volume that would otherwise be occupied by a fluid”. Whew! Okay, lets take a look at what that means with a real-life, everyday example.
Let’s say you have a glass of water and you decided to fill it to the brim. Then you decide you want to add some ice cubes. When you add the ice cubes, what happens? The water in the glass overflows. That’s because when you add the ice, you’re forcing it into a space already filled with water. The water doesn’t magically disappear – it has to go somewhere, so the water overflows the glass.
Now imagine that same scenario, but instead of a glass you have a deep fryer on an open flame propane burner. Instead of water you have highly flammable oil, and instead of ice you have one massive (and frozen) turkey. Need I say more?
Before You Deep-Fry
*DON’T EVER, EVER, EVER DEEP FRY A TURKEY INSIDE YOUR HOUSE!!!*
Seriously. You’re dealing with open flame and lots of hot oil. This isn’t smart by any stretch of the imagination. Ever hear of Murphy’s Law? It says that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the most inopportune moment”. If your Mother-In-Law already hates you the last thing you want to do is burn down the house while she’s visiting. You’ll never live it down. Ever.
You’ll also want to completely thaw out your turkey. When ice crystals hit hot oil, the oil goes into a frenzy and spits and spatters everywhere. One drop of oil is enough to set your deep-fryer on fire, so do yourself a favor (and look like an absolute genius to your MIL) and thaw that bird first.
Equipment for Battle
I’d be lying if I said this was easy. Let’s face it – you’re lowering pounds of flesh into super-heated oil with the potential for spontaneous combustion. It’s probably the most heart-pounding thing you’ll do all day – all eyes on you, watching your every move, will it catch fire or won’t it!? Not to mention that if you screw up the Thanksgiving turkey, you’ll have to fight off some very angry family members…
So, to get the job done right, you’re going to need a few things:
1. Clear space on your lawn (NOT your deck, because wood burns). Must be far enough away from your house that if something goes wrong, your house will remain safe.
2. A Turkey Fryer Kit. This kit comes as a complete set, with everything you need to deep fry a 25 pound bird. Of course, if you want to skip the oil altogether, you can buy this Oiless Infrared Turkey Fryer instead.
3. LOTS of oil
4. Gloves (which come in the kit above), apron to protect your clothing from hot spattering oil, and goggles to protect your eyes from flying oil droplets.
5. Just to be safe, a fire extinguisher (not a hose). Water will not put out flaming oil, but it will spread it around your lawn.
Frying the Bird
Remember the glass full of water and ice? We’re about to put displacement into action, so to do it properly, make sure you follow these steps:
Attach your turkey to the turkey brace. Lower your COMPLETELY THAWED turkey into the cold deep fryer. Pour in enough water to cover the turkey. Make sure that you can remove the turkey without reaching into the water (because the water will be replaced with hot oil in a moment).
Remove the bird and mark the new water level on the outside of the fryer. Fill the fryer with oil up to this level. DO NOT EXCEED THIS LEVEL! Begin to heat the oil to the recommended temperature, about 350° F or 175° C.
Dry off your turkey and season accordingly. Check your oil and if it has reached the optimum temperature, turn off the burner as an added safety measure. Reattach to the turkey brace if needed, and, wearing gloves, your protective apron, and your goggles, slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Do not drop your turkey or you will set the world on fire (if you haven’t turned off your burner).
Once your turkey is in the fryer, reignite the burner and set your timer. It takes about 3-4 minutes per pound of turkey. Keep an eye on the bird and don’t you dare go inside to watch footfall. You need to keep an eye on it at all times in case something goes wrong and you need to act quickly.
Check on the bird when time is up and see if it’s a nice golden-brown. Slowly remove the turkey and check the internal temperature. When it has reached a minimum of 165° F in the breast (175° in the thigh), the turkey is done.
Et voila! you have a golden-brown, deep-fried turkey, and you didn’t end up homeless this Thanksgiving. Good for you, now go enjoy your feast!
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